WASHINGTON — This September is the 24th National Food Safety Education Month — a chance to focus on buying, storing, preparing and serving food safely.
Although the United States has one of the safest food supplies in the world, approximately one in six Americans experiences foodborne illness each year.
Protect yourself and your family by following food safety principles.
• Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food.
• Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running tap water, including those with skins and rinds that are not eaten. Scrub firm produce with a clean produce brush.
• Wash your cutting boards, dishes, cooking tools and countertops with hot soapy water after preparing each food item.
• Raw meat, poultry, eggs, seafood and flour should not come in contact with foods that do not need to be cooked before eating. Keep them separate while shopping, storing and cooking.
• Use a one set of cooking tools for raw meat, poultry, eggs, seafood and flour, another set for foods that are already cooked or will not be cooked.
• Don’t reuse marinades used on raw foods unless you bring them to a boil first.
• Don’t cross-contaminate by washing raw poultry or meat. It can spread germs around the kitchen which may transfer to food.
• Make sure food is cooked to a safe internal temperature by checking with a food thermometer before you eat it. A safe internal temperature is important protection against germs in or on most cooked foods.
• Follow package directions on baking mixes and other flour-containing products for correct cooking temperatures and specified times.
• Refrigerate or freeze meat, poultry, eggs, seafood and other perishables within two hours of purchasing. Refrigerate within one hour if the temperature is above 90 degrees. This two-hour rule also applies to serving prepared cold or hot food on a picnic or buffet style party, because the longer food sits at room temperature, the more bacteria multiply.
• Never thaw food at room temperature, such as on the countertop. There are three safe ways to defrost food: in the refrigerator, in cold water — change water every half hour to make sure it stays cold — and in the microwave. Food thawed in cold water or in the microwave should be cooked immediately.
• Divide large amounts of leftovers into shallow containers for quicker cooling in the refrigerator.
Learn more at www.foodsafety.gov.